A Guide to Pairing: New World Pinot Noir

Today we begin our annual Big Fall Countdown wine releases, and like last year, we’re kicking it off with a beautifully delineated, resonant Oregonian Pinot Noir that harkens to the Burgundian roots in the region.  It’s also high time to begin planning for the fast approaching holiday season (and dinners).  So today we offer you our pairing suggestions for this ancient grape.

First off, a bit about Pinot Noir:

  • Finicky, volatile, temperamental are all good words to describe Pinot Noir, a grape that is very difficult to grow due to ancient genes and an inherent inability to fight disease
  • To the point above, Pinot Noir is the most terroir-heavy grape as it takes on heavy amounts of what the land has to offer, influencing the resulting wine greatly
  • The French have embraced the terroir of Pinot Noir so much, the entirety of Burgundy is mapped based around flavor profiles of the grape over proper city or village boundaries
  • Pinot Noir is known for its thin skin and results in a less tannic wine than all the other major red varieties

That said, let’s talk food (think like a chef):

New World Pinot Noir is most well known for cherry, strawberry, or cranberry fruit flavors backed up by any array of cinnamon, cardamom, cola, truffles, forest floor, fresh turned soils, potting soil, mushrooms, and bacon fat.

The acidity can range from bright to medium bodied, and the tannins are almost always, small, soft, well integrated, or velvety.

So, if you’re a chef, and you’re making a dish, the wine has lots of earthy, umami rich components, and a brighter top end of red fruit and berries.  As well, it’s not a tannin bomb, it’s softer and more elegant on the palate.  You will use Pinot Noir’s brighter acidity to cut through rich fats in a dish, and can put some more tannic items on the table as the wine will not amplify those to the point of dry mouth-level displeasure.

Compare AND contrast:

Let’s knock out the easy stuff first.  From a comparative pairing perspective, anything mushrooms or truffle dominated are the perfect pairing with Pinot Noir.  Accentuating the already earthy elements of the wine with naturally earthy ingredients is a sure fire winner at the dinner table.  In addition, mushrooms are generally soft in texture on the palate, so the softer tannin in Pinot Noir is very welcome alongside them.  Both resonate with umami, so the sixth sense will be very happy.

Contrasting pairings with Pinot Noir is really where it’s at though…

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Pigs and Pinot!

There is nary a more perfect pairing than any part of a pig and preparation – from bacon to loins to ground sausages – and a glass of Pinot Noir.  The softer tannin from the wine really allows you to enjoy the meat while the brighter acidity cuts right through those famous fats.

Not only will you probably get hit with an onslaught of bacon this holiday season, there is the star of the show in most homes: the bird.  That’s right, the turkey that was worked on for hours, slow cooking, being basted, sometimes stuffed with other ingredients (or other smaller birds), maybe fried?  In any way, shape, form, or combination of these, no wine will go better with any incarnation of turkey and subsequent stuffings than Pinot Noir.  Turkey, as it is no surprise to anyone, is a very tannic meat (most people’s culinary battle of the year culminates in trying to get the turkey cooked through, but not too dry, leading to a fibrous disaster – some never perfect the balance unfortunately), so it’s definitely not the dish for a big, bold red wine (sorry Merlot & Cab!), your best friend will be a Pinot Noir.  You already probably serve the bird with cranberry sauce, so a wine with cranberry flavors is very welcome and complimentary, but your gravy is probably rich and viscous, so the bright acidity will slice it like a hot knife, and the meat is tannic, so a lower tannin wine like Pinot Noir is the way to go!

While out of season now, it’s worth noting that the infamously difficult to pair asparagus is actually well suited to pair with Pinot Noir, especially when grilled (and if you really want to go for it, then wrapped in prosciutto – remember: pigs and Pinot for the win!).

Get weird:

Pinot Noir may not seem like the wine of choice for fish or ocean fare.  That’s totally fine and understandable.  Who would want cranberry or strawberry-cola flavors with briney, ocean-centric flavors?  Barf.  However, there’s this thing called grilled swordfish, and it’s meaty, takes on the grill flavors perfectly, has this land-meat like fiber structure when cooked, and it’s just stellar with Pinot Noir.  The earthy flavors really compliment the grilled swordfish while the brighter top notes play perfectly to cleanse the palate from bite to bite.  Don’t believe us?  You should try it sometime.  It’s life changing.

So there you have it, our guide for pairing New World Pinot Noir, just in time for the upcoming holidays.

How about you though? For our other guests, please feel free to share your pairing suggestions for New World Pinot Noir in the comments below.

Cheers!

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